The MCU’s X-Men will likely face villainous mutants and the Avengers themselves, but there’s another group that could become their fiercest rivals.
Phase 7 may be the start of the MCU’s Mutant Saga, and before the X-Men make their official debut, their rivals may already have been introduced, the Inhumans. Phase 4 hasn’t held back on providing clues to the introduction of MCU mutants, as evidenced by the appearances of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Namor the Submariner in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, as well as She-Hulk: Attorney At Law‘s references to Wolverine, just to name a few. The Multiverse Saga may be too crowded to add the X-Men into the mix, but mutants are certainly coming sooner rather than later.
Naturally, Marvel Studios are expected to put a fresh spin on famous X-Men such as Storm and Cyclops, as well as mutant villains like Magneto, Mystique, and Mr. Sinister. The conflict between the X-Men and their iconic enemies is a huge part of their appeal, and a new take on it will differentiate the MCU’s mutants from Fox’s X-Men franchise. However, the MCU can also allow the X-Men to interact with teams such as the Avengers, the Young Avengers, the Thunderbolts, and other non-mutant teams. One of these teams could be the X-Men’s main foil once they assemble.
The Inhumans Are The X-Men’s Natural Enemies
The Inhumans are a genetically-modified subspecies of human beings who develop seemingly random superpowers when exposed to a substance called “Terrigen Mist”. The Inhumans are quick to build their own secret utopia (led by Black Bolt, Medusa, and their highly respected royal family), becomeing much more technologically advanced than humans, and escaping from the hatred and discrimination that mutants have to go through on Earth. In short, most Inhumans are privileged because of their atypical genetics, the complete opposite of mutants. Mutants and Inhumans are very similar in nature, but their differing hierarchy and public perception put them at odds with each other.
2016’s Inhumans vs X-Men storyline showed how easy it is for this ticking time bomb to explode, with mutants fighting for survival when a Terrigen cloud became toxic for mutants worldwide. Such a war for survival could fit in the MCU’s timeline if the natural abilities of both species begin to awaken at the same time somewhere around Phase 7. While not villainous, the Inhumans can turn into fierce rivals for the X-Men by sheer competition alone, a conflict that could involve other MCU characters like the mutant Ms. Marvel, who could still have links to the Inhumans like her comic book counterpart.
How MCU Phase 7 Can Redeem The Inhumans
Agents of SHIELD introduced Inhumans to live-action, but Agents of SHIELD‘s canon is yet to be retooled into the MCU. What’s worse, the MCU has ignored ABC’s 2017 Inhumans TV series after it was critically panned due to its evident low budget and unambitious plot. However, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness already started giving the Inhumans a proper MCU treatment with enough time and budget to do them justice. The Doctor Strange sequel brought back Anson Mount’s Black Bolt and gave him a major overhaul in the little screen time he had, which raises hopes for a full Inhumans revamp.
Similarly to Anson Mount, the cast of 2017’s Inhumans could reprise their roles in the MCU as a soft-rebooted version of their characters. Inhumans such as Medusa, Crystal, Triton, and Lockjaw can each appear in standalone roles throughout various MCU movies and shows with more powerful abilities, and they could slowly begin to establish their distant relationship with the humans who hold dormant Inhuman genes. Along the way, Marvel Studios could incorporate characters from Agents of SHIELD such as Chloe Bennett’s Quake, further strengthening the Inhumans’ presence in the wider MCU.
The Inhumans Can Properly Join The MCU Alongside The X-Men
As to where the Inhumans could show up, it’s possible that they have remained quiet in their Attilan empire all along, similar to Namor’s Talokan. When the mutant gene begins to awaken on Earth, they could visit Earth and investigate, only to find out that in addition to more Inhumans appearing, mutants are now multiplying. This would intensify their conflict and double down on the parallel between the enhanced elite that comes from above and the mutant outsiders who have to tough it out with humankind.
With many Avengers possibly exiting the MCU after Avengers: Secret Wars, there will likely be more than enough time to devote to the X-Men and the Inhumans the way they deserve. The cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rise of the mutant gene provide plenty of opportunities to develop both species to their full potential, and Marvel’s vast mutant and Inhuman lore are extensive sources of material for whatever comes after the Multiverse Saga.